Marketing Is a Science

Contributed by:

Boris Kushkuley, Ph.D., Chief Digital Officer, Ogivly CommonHealth, part of Ogivly CommonHealth Worldwide

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Marketing Is a Science

We can apply scientific rigor to the campaigns we create trying to ­understand cause and ­effect. It’s not always going to be easy, but ­neither was decoding the universe. If you remember anything from your high school science teacher, it is Albert Einstein’s famous equation E=mc². This represents a simple but beautiful equation that establishes the relationship between energy and mass. This formula — and several others — were part of Einstein’s attempt to understand the universe. In his mind, only simple and elegant mathematical formulas could express the complexity of “everything.” As a trained physicist, I spent years studying Einstein’s and other great physicists’ theories. As we tested these theories through a series of experiments, I learned how math and science were used to prove what was otherwise thought to be unquantifiable. Coming into marketing, I was amazed to find how little was tested and measured. So much of what we were doing was a result of gut instincts. Compared with the method that defined physics, marketing campaign analytics seemed arbitrary and…unscientific. Don Draper Doesn’t Work Here Over the past few years, many of us have immersed ourselves in the television show Mad Men. One of the key characters is Don Draper, who ideated brilliant creative campaigns. The show took place in a much simpler time, when ad campaigns were comprised of fewer channels. When a television ad was run, much of its target audience was exposed at the exact same time. Now, the channel mix is significantly more complicated and fragmented, yet more measurable. We can push a lever in one medium and measure the impact across multiple channels. We can set key performance indicators and analyze data to determine how a message or content asset is impacting our target audience. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need the Don Drapers anymore. It just means we can measure the impact of creativity in ways that we couldn’t in the past. We’ve always been able to measure exposure, but now we can also evaluate engagement and action. We can apply scientific rigor to the campaigns we create trying to understand cause and effect. It’s not always going to be easy, but neither was decoding the universe. Using Data to Improve ­Behavior Data are everywhere, and we’re barely exploring its potential. People are passionate enough about their own health to buy apps and gadgets to monitor every heartbeat and step. Consumers want more health information, but we’re just handing them reams of reports. Data and numbers are just facts until we do something to make sense of them. We have the technology to make data actionable. Today everything from mobile sensors to near-field communications and geo-fencing are available on consumer-grade devices. The hardware and networks are ready for us to do something brilliant; we just need to leverage them. Let’s go one step further. Instead of just telling patients that they’ve walked 20 more steps than yesterday, let’s tell them (and their physicians) what that means to their overall health. Let’s help them set goals that are quantifiable and achievable, so they know when they’ve actually reached a real milestone in healthy living. It is time that we use the scientific method to put forth theories that can be tested and verified. We can measure and assess whether we are reaching, engaging, and motivating our audience, including patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. We need to use scientific rigor and tools to tell us what works, what doesn’t, and where to invest our efforts next. How Science Can Help Scientific approaches can help solve these problems, if we are willing to face the facts. Some great creative ideas are just that: great creative ideas. That doesn’t always mean they are effective. If you are a brand manager, start small. Measure more than just click-throughs or time on site. Try to understand what these data mean to your target users. Are you motivating them and engaging them? If you set up honest, objective criteria, the analytics will provide you with impartial answers. The scientific method is free of bias. Award-winning creative campaigns may look beautiful, but analytics can tell you if they have been effective tools for positively influencing behaviors and motivating your audience. In science, coming to conclusions is not always easy, but if it’s done right, the results are simple and enlightening. Einstein would approve. Boris Kushkuley, Ph.D., Chief Digital Officer, Ogilvy CommonHealth, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide. Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide — the health behavior experts of Ogilvy & Mather — is committed to creativity and effectiveness in healthcare communications, everywhere. For more information, visit

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